Ahead of Brazil's recent triumph at the 2013 Confederations Cup, head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was coming in for enormous criticism in Brazil for both his tactics and squad selection.
After all, until facing France on the eve of the competition, Felipao and his side had managed just one win from six fixtures in 2013—and that came against a domestic-based Bolivia side.
It was simply not acceptable in the eyes of the Brazilian media and, worse still, a resurgent Ronaldinho Gaucho was being overlooked.
The former Barcelona player has been inspirational for club side Atletico Mineiro thus far in 2013, helping them reach the semifinal of the prestigious Copa Libertadores. He was, though, overlooked for the Confederations Cup, with Sao Paulo's Jadson getting the nod as Scolari's backup No. 10.
Just weeks later, Brazil were crowned champions. A 3-0 victory over tournament favourites Spain in the final saw the Selecao claim a memorable title success, and the pre-tournament grumbles were forgotten.
Now, the campaign for Ronaldinho's return was silent. Felipao had won back the trust of the supporters.
However, with a year to go until the 2014 World Cup, continued good form is bound to see the Ronaldinho question re-emerge. Is the former Barcelona genius still capable of performing at international level? No one is quite sure.
Ronaldinho's recent forays in a Brazil shirt have been highly underwhelming. Yes, there was a good display against Bolivia tucked in the middle, but he fell decidedly short against any opposition of note.
Club form is one thing, but his non-selection has not been for lack of opportunity.
There is a major difference in style and quality between most games he has played for Atlético Mineiro and what is encountered at international level. He must prove he is still capable of making that step up.
To do that, he must first earn an opportunity—likely to come in a home-based international arranged later this year. He must then make an indisputable claim for a place in the full Brazil side for coming fixtures.
That is, in theory, the easy part. The next step involves proving himself against some of the best international sides in the world, and proving that he is capable of making more of an impact than some of his positional rivals.
At present, it is all looking highly unlikely.
There is no doubting that the Brazilian public would like to welcome a fully firing Ronaldinho back into the squad, but it has now been a long time since he showed evidence of being able to make an impact at the highest level.
Atletico face a battle to remain in the Copa Libertadores, having lost the opening leg of their semifinal encounter to Newell's Old Boys 2-0 just last week. The magical attacking midfielder could do worse than to inspire a turnaround in that fixture if he really hopes to be involved next summer.
It is entirely possible that he can force himself back into Felipao's plans, but it will not be based on club form alone.
He is, no doubt, capable of doing so if he can cope with the physical demands of modern international football. At the moment, though, the odds are not in his favour.
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